Wednesday, September 30, 2009

2 American masters topics for seminar

The Washington Times
September 28, 2009

Two American masters -- self-exiled intellectual and author James Baldwin and "Record Man" Ahmet Ertegun -- will be the topics of discussion at Georgetown University on Oct. 5 when Magdalena J. Zaborowska of the University of Michigan and Georgetown history professor Maurice Jackson, a jazz specialist, lead a seminar titled "African American-Turkish Connections Through the Arts."

The seminar -- set for 6:30 to 9 p.m. at the Copley Formal Lounge and co-sponsored by the Turkish Coalition of America, the Institute of Turkish Studies, Howard University and Georgetown -- will look at the lives of two arts masters who were born as their homelands emerged from World War I and reborn as post-World War II America grappled with the meaning of civil rights and civil liberties.

Mr. Baldwin, a native New Yorker who lived in Istanbul and elsewhere in Europe for decades, once proclaimed that Turkey "saved my life" because of the freedoms he lived and breathed there but was denied as a black man in America. In the meantime, Mr. Ertegun, who grew up in Washington and whose ambassador father opened the family home to blacks who entered through the front door, was becoming a prolific arts entrepreneur whose love of music eventually lead to the formation of Atlantic Records. The label's hit artists included Ray Charles and the Clovers.

"TCA is proud to sponsor this program that highlights the shared history of Turkish Americans and the African-American community in D.C.," TCA President Lincoln McCurdy told The Washington Times. "The legacy of Ahmet Ertegun of breaking down racial barriers through music should inspire all Americans. Additionally, James Baldwin's works and his courageous stance on gender, race and sexual equality should remind us that local activism and the arts have always been close together in African-American communities, that they have always had a transnational and global dimension."

Said Ms. Zaborowska, author of "James Baldwin's Turkish Decade: Erotics of Exile," "Baldwin's claim, [that] Turkey 'saved my life,' referred to the freedom he felt in Istanbul from racial and sexual oppression, the freedom that transformed him and his writing as a black writer, novelist, playwright and civil rights movement activist."

Link to Article

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Turkish group reaches out to Armenian-American students

September 15, 2009
McClatchy Newspapers

By Michael Doyle

WASHINGTON -- New scholarships will enable Armenian-American students to study in Turkey, a gesture prompted by diplomatic progress made by two long-feuding countries.
The scholarships for 100 American students of Armenian descent will finance a semester at any Turkish or Turkish Cypriot university. The Turkish Coalition of America is offering the $2,000 scholarships in hopes of changing minds.

"We hope to encourage dialogue between Turks and Armenians, so that future generations won't have the burden of this animosity," coalition president Lincoln McCurdy said Monday. "The shared history of both cultures has been overshadowed by hostility for far too long."

The scholarships could prove particularly enticing in regions like the San Joaquin Valley, home to tens of thousands of Armenian-Americans. California State University, Fresno, hosts both an Armenian Studies Program and the nationwide Society for Armenian Studies, which spans many campuses.

Each year, roughly 10 Fresno State students graduate with a minor in Armenian Studies, and dozens more take history, arts and language courses through the program.

But the new scholarships also provoke questions in some Armenian-American circles, as do the broader talks now under way between Turkey and Armenia.

The two countries have been at odds for nearly a century over events between 1915 and 1923, when by some estimates upward of 1.5 million Armenians died during the final years of the Ottoman Empire before Turkey was founded. The Turkish government blames the deaths on civil war. Armenians call the deaths genocide.

"There's always skepticism, because of Turkey's attitude in the past," noted Barlow Der Mugrdechian, director of the Fresno State Armenian Studies Program. "Until Turkey recognizes the [Armenian] genocide, there's always going to be skepticism."
Der Mugrdechian said he would need to learn more about the scholarship's details before he could evaluate it.

More broadly, though, he noted that San Joaquin Valley Armenian-Americans have concerns that the Turkish-Armenian diplomatic breakthrough announced recently was accomplished in part through trading away a formal Armenian genocide recognition.

On Aug. 31, following negotiations brokered by Swiss go-betweens, Turkey and Armenia unveiled a roadmap toward mutual diplomatic recognition. This includes six weeks for parliamentary consideration, followed by opening of the Turkey-Armenia border within two months.

The protocols include establishing a joint historical commission that will presumably be genocide-oriented, though it is described in a round-about way.
Armenian-American organizations and their Capitol Hill allies have long pushed for an explicit congressional Armenian genocide resolution.

With the help of successive U.S. presidents, fearful of the diplomatic consequences, Turkish officials have resisted the genocide resolution efforts.

The Turkish Coalition of America was founded in 2007. It sponsors educational and other programs boosting Turkey, including the trips to Turkey sponsored for members of Congress and staff and scholarships for students.

The Coalition offers more information at

Monday, September 14, 2009

TCA Position on the Turkey-Armenia Dialogue

The Turkish Coalition of America welcomes the initialing of two important protocols between the Republic of Turkey and the Republic of Armenia, which lay out a framework and time table for the two governments to establish diplomatic relations and develop bilateral relations.

TCA recognizes the United States Administration’s and President Obama’s personal commitment to normalizing relations between Turkey and Armenia and to supporting dialogue between Turks and Armenians. In this context, TCA calls upon Congress to lend its unambiguous support to the ongoing process. We appeal to members of Congress interested in Turkish-Armenian relations to play a constructive role in advancing the goals of peace and stability in the region, as well as dialogue and harmony between Turkish Americans and Armenian Americans.

There are great benefits to be gained for generations to come if Armenians and Turks are encouraged to increase economic and political cooperation and rediscover their deep cultural ties, derived from a thousand years of peaceful coexistence.

TCA strongly believes that Turkey and Armenia can indeed look to the future and leave assessments of their tragic history and mutual suffering to historians and other qualified experts. In this context, TCA reiterates its strong support for an international commission of authoritative specialists with access to all relevant archives, including those of Armenian organizations that remain closed today. We see such an effort as the fairest and, indeed, the only method for assessing the past, which will pave the way for reconciliation between the two people, in lieu of politically charged legislative or executive declarations by third parties. This initiative enjoys the strong support of the Turkish American community and was voiced to President Obama in a February 2009 letter, signed by 50 Turkish American organizations nationwide.

While resolving the outstanding issues between Turkey and Armenia will certainly improve regional conditions, TCA also calls on all interested parties to reinvigorate their efforts to end the illegal Armenian occupation of Azerbaijan's territory and end the plight of nearly one million refugees in Azerbaijan. A just and lasting solution to this conflict is as essential to peace and stability in the region as any element of the recent Turkey-Armenia protocols.

Finally, the Turkish Coalition of America extends its hand of friendship to all Armenian groups who wish to work together to rediscover the bonds of centuries old kinship between the Turkish and Armenian people. We take pride in announcing a TCA grant for one hundred scholarships for American college students of Armenian descent for a semester-long study abroad program at any Turkish or Turkish Cypriot university.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Turkish Coalition of America Announces $100,000 Grant to Chaldean Federation of America

In an effort to alleviate the suffering of thousands of Iraq’s war torn and displaced Chaldean Persons in Turkey, the Turkish Coalition of America (TCA) and the Chaldean Federation of America (CFA) will hold a signing ceremony for the $100,000 TCA humanitarian assistance grant to the CFA. The ceremony will be held at the Shenandoah Country Club in West Bloomfield on Wednesday, September 2, 2009, at 7:00 PM. The club is located at 5600 Walnut Lake Road.

Monsignor Francois Yakan, Vicar of the Chaldean Patriarchate in Turkey and Mr. Erol Dura, a board member of the Turkish Chaldean-Assyrian-Syriac Humanitarian Organization (KASDER) will also sign on receiving this humanitarian award for their organization being selected as the facilitator and provider of award funds to these displaced persons. CFA and KASDER agreed to allocate 100% of the grant funds for the intended humanitarian relief; no overhead cost will be deducted. The local Chaldean Assyrian Association and community has played an invaluable role in implementing this aid program in addition to their existing efforts which have sustained the most pressing needs of the refugees for a considerable time.

“The Chaldean Federation of America is grateful to the Turkish American Community for the well thought and just in time humanitarian aid grant towards the immediate needs of the thousands of displaced Iraqi Chaldeans scattered throughout Turkey. CFA will continue to work with TCA to ensure adequate humanitarian relief and protection to those who need it the most,” said Joseph T. Kassab, Executive Director of CFA.

“The Iraqi refugee crisis continues to be one of the world’s most pressing humanitarian concerns. The work that the Chaldean Federation of America is doing to serve this vulnerable population is of critical importance, and helps contribute to the overall stability and security of the region,” Congressman Gary C. Peters, who represents Michigan’s 9th Congressional District which includes the Chaldean Federation of America’s national headquarters in Farmington Hills and is home to tens of thousands of Chaldean-Americans. “I extend my gratitude to the Turkish Coalition of America for providing this grant, and look forward to working with both of these organizations to help address the needs of Iraqis refugees and internally displaced people.”

“I thank the Turkish Coalition of America for providing financial support to one of the largest Chaldean populations in southeastern Michigan,” said Congresswoman Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (MI-13). “This donation to the Chaldean Federation of America illustrates the positive impact that America’s ethnic communities can have on improving the lives of people in the United States and abroad. I applaud both organizations for working together to assist those in need.”

“There are hundreds of thousands of Iraqi minorities who fled from violence and threats on their lives in Iraq, only to find they are unable to support themselves and their families in host countries where they live as refugees,” said Congressman John Dingell (MI-15). The partnership between the Turkish Coalition of America and the Chaldean Federation of America, which will provide assistance to displaced Iraqi Chaldeans in Turkey, is a much needed lifeline for this vulnerable population. As a Representative from a Congressional District with a high proportion of Iraqi refugees resettled in the United States, I have seen first hand that the U.S. cannot simply rely on the generosity of groups like TCA and CFA. The U.S. must lead by example, and immediately implement a comprehensive plan to address the Iraqi refugee crisis.”

“TCA is proud to make this donation to the Chaldean Federation of America in an effort to help alleviate the suffering of displaced individuals,” said Lincoln McCurdy, President of the TCA. “It is our hope that this effort will continue our efforts to build bridges between communities and further understanding between cultures.”

TCA and CFA will continue to promote their relationship to their respective communities and the general public in the U.S. and Turkey to provide the best possible comfort to the displaced and the vulnerable Iraqi Chaldeans in Turkey.